Sue Jeffrey launched her Manifesto for the Tees Valley on Monday 3 April, at TTE. The manifesto can be viewed here.
Hello and thank you for coming.
This is a really important day, because today the Tees Valley stands at the start of a new era, an era which I believe will define us for a generation. We are in a unique position. It is us alone, alone along the entire eastern half of this country that have seized the opportunity of devolution and are taking what I believe is a great leap forward.
For too long, London has made decisions for the North, and for too often the north to them was either Manchester or Newcastle. Now we are stepping out of their shadow.
Today I want to set out what I would do as mayor to ensure devolution here means a powerful new political voice in the UK, the Tees Valley voice, a voice that will secure for us new opportunities, new prospects and above all else new jobs.
We have some of the highest unemployment in the UK, and pockets of disadvantage that are really deep rooted. For the last decades nothing has really changed that, despite a myriad of schemes, programmes and initiatives.
Why, because London based policy makers have always tried to solve problems at a distance with no real sense of what can and will work here.
We are one of the most centrally governed countries in the world.
An almost absurd example is that you cannot even put in a cattle grid in England without getting permission from the secretary of state first
And that’s only after you’ve worked through a section of a schedule of an Act first passed in 1980.
How can we ever hope to solve local problems like that, without local power and without local accountability?
Well, from now things are going to change.
I have made two promises which will define my time as mayor, if elected. First, the mayor’s office will be one dedicated to job creation, and second, I will deliver those jobs by giving the Tees Valley a new voice.
A voice that will be heard by investors, by innovators, by entrepreneurs, by those who want to work with us to create opportunity and be part of our success.
As mayor I will create the right conditions to secure the jobs we need to thrive, to deliver social justice and real opportunity for all.
We need to ensure everyone here has a chance to succeed, that those who are held back by background, or education or just lack of opportunity are given the same chances as those who have had a much better start.
Now I have been doing some reading about Mayors. One of the biggest lessons we can borrow from American mayors is that sometimes it is not the powers you have but the partnership you create that matter if we are to secure real equality, and I want to be the mayor who makes that happen.
But that’s easy to say but how am I going to do it. Well today I publish my manifesto that sets out my roadmap for jobs and prosperity.
I just want to talk you through some of the key themes. I’ll start with regeneration.
We have had some great announcements recently about investment in our region. Regeneration schemes which could transform our area.
· In Darlington there are multi-million pound plans which will revive land around the station while making our gateway to the UK ready for High Speed Trains.
· In Middlesbrough, where some £700m of redevelopment will deliver a thriving centre including the recently announced snow centre.
· In Hartlepool the National Maritime Museum which opened just last year is the starting point for the development of the Hartlepool Waterfront Programme –which will see the area developed as a landmark destination.
· In Stockton the High Street, the best in the Country and is leading the way for the revitalisation of the Borough’s Town and District Centres including the refurbishment of the Globe Theatre; and
· In Redcar and Cleveland, Saltburn has just been voted one of the top 50 places to live in the country that set alongside Redcar where the development of the Kirkleatham Historic Estate and the delivery of a new leisure based complex at Coatham, will see a growing visitor market.
Those projects will need a lot of resources. My responsibility as Mayor will be to ensure they get the support needed to succeed.
Success though will be more than just about helping each of the five Boroughs deliver their existing investment plans. As part of my commitment to working together, I promise that within days of taking office, I will be starting talks with the people who will deliver the new jobs in our key growth sectors - Advanced Manufacturing; • Process, Chemicals and Energy; • Logistics; • Health and Biologics; • Digital and Creative; • Culture and Leisure; • Business and Professional Services.
Work is already underway on sector action plans in each of these areas but I want to see this accelerated so that I can be clear that the targets that have been set for jobs growth are achievable sooner.
Secondly skills and education and the same applies to our further education centres. I have pledged to get our young people the skills they need to get good jobs locally. That means we need to resolve the impasse we have reached following the conclusion of the Further Education Area Review. I will bring our colleges together, Chairs and Principals to find a way to agree an end duplication and competition and instead identify the strengths where they can improve their offer and specialise linked closely to our key growth sectors. I recognise there are some big obstacles in the way of change including their debt burden and I want to investigate what can be done to remove or at least alleviate some of those problems.
Next the incoming mayor will be leading the South Tees Development Corporation in regenerating the former SSI site.
Over the last year I have visited too many redundant industrial sites where it has taken 20, 30 years to make any significant progress. Let me make this firm, definite promise. By the end of my first term I will have created jobs on this site, not jobs shifted from somewhere else in the Tees Valley but genuine new jobs backed by new money, employing local people. I can tell you now, if decision makers and civil servants in London think they are going to hold us back by not providing the support and investment needed then they need to think again because I will not sit by and let that happen.
Our industry has been the reason for our success in the past and I intend to make it the focus of our success in the future. We have world class innovation happening here in the Tees Valley As mayor I will fight to secure the investment we need to turn ideas into opportunities and there are two immediate priorities here.
Carbon capture, storage and utilisation the key project that will ensure our big industrial plants can continue to be successful and provide jobs while meeting climate change obligations; and
The new metals and material’s catapult we’ve been fighting for. This will come into its own for example supporting growth in the local supply chain for the automotive industry, making us less reliant on Europe, and helping secure the future of major employers like Nissan in a post Brexit world.
Indeed, another of my priorities as mayor will be to start work on a Brexit plan for the Tees Valley, assessing the risks and opportunities, and making sure we are positioned to secure powers, similar to the other devolved UK countries and regions.
It would be unacceptable if the Brexit deal means even more power goes to the centre, leaving the rest of us wait for the crumbs from the table.
And I know that any organisation or business would find it almost impossible to make that case alone but a mayor speaking with a united Tees Valley voice will help secure these things ensuring we are heard loud and clear in Whitehall and beyond.
And then finally there is transport.
I intend to see our airport revived providing a world class international gateway and thanks to the work of our Labour led combined authority we are getting a new congestion busting bridge over the Tees, and I want to see our public transport system joined up as a Tees Valley metro system but first I want to get the basics right – the buses.
I spent Friday travelling across the entire Tees Valley by bus. I met passengers who had many stories to tell about their experience and many praised the services, and particularly the drivers. But not all was good, entire areas are off the bus map or have limited services. Just as an example I met someone who worked at South Tees Hospital – when the bus doesn’t turn up – he faces and 80 minute walk home – that’s unacceptable.
In London, the mayor says what the fares are, what the routes are, what the timetables are, and private firms bid for contracts on his terms. If the bus companies won’t work towards a better deal for here then I’ll use the new powers in the buses bill to take over and seek to do the same.
And we mustn’t forget this is just the start of our devolution journey – part one if you like. More powers need to be dragged out of London, and I want to be the mayor to do that. I helped create this first deal, and I want to set out on devolution part two within days of being elected.
What might be included?
Well look for example at apprentice training.
The apprenticeship levy is a powerful tool, levied on business here but held by London. And that is wrong. It’s ours. Our businesses paid for it, our workers need it, we should be the ones to spend it.
Or in housing. I have plans in my manifesto to seize land and build on sites the private sector fails to back.
But in Government, where billions of housing funds lie, the solution is just to hand it to a national quango and hope that works. That money should be ours, used to create a single flexible housing and regeneration fund for Tess Valley to deliver housing solutions suited to local need.
There are many other powers we can seek from a second and even a third deal and if elected I am going to have an ongoing conversation with the people, business and organisations of the Tees Valley over the coming years to agree what they might contain.
So to conclude - two things have struck me in this campaign so far.
One is that people do get why we need devolution. When you talk to them they see why we in the Tees Valley haven’t had our chance. They tell you many different governments haven’t done enough. Now it’s our turn to change the future.
I remember travelling to Scotland years ago, before referendums and the SNP surge and before the idea of so much power in the hands of those outside of London was fashionable, and yet seeing a banner demanding devolution and knowing then that they will get it, that it was something people bought in to beyond just those in politics.
The other thing this campaign has highlighted is the clear dividing line between the candidates.
Others in this election may give you gimmicks and slogans and wild promises. My offer is different.
The manifesto I put before you today is a promise to create jobs. It is that simple.
Incredibly, no one else is even talking about creating jobs.
Our Tees Valley cannot afford to lessen its focus on jobs. Good jobs, well paid jobs, jobs with a future.
So there it is, a manifesto for the Tees Valley, made in the Tees Valley, built on the determination that together we, not London or Europe or other experts, but we here, can create jobs and make things better for ourselves and given the chance that’s just what I’m going to help us do.